A tabulation of mind-body possibilities

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Hi folks. Attached is a PDF containing a little table I drew up in trying to methodically consider the various possible combinations of each of mind and brain as either physical or mental along with the(?) four possible types of relationship between the two (mind and brain). It was inspired by a little discussion/debate I'm having elsewhere on the topic, "Consciousness is simply generated by the brain. When the brain dies, consciousness dies and is no more." No prizes for guessing my position on the topic.

Before (potentially) sharing it in that discussion/debate in the context of clarifying why/how I rule out various positions such as physicalism based in part simply on what words mean, I thought I'd share it here and get folks' feedback, if any.

Over to you.

[Edit: due in part to the ongoing discussion in this thread, I've revised this document and produced a second version, attached too. I've left the original attached as-is so as to preserve its history, especially given that it's referenced in the discussion.]


Attached Files
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.pdf   a-tabulation-of-mind-body-possibilities.pdf (Size: 64.04 KB / Downloads: 12)
(This post was last modified: 2024-05-18, 09:06 AM by Laird. Edited 1 time in total. Edit Reason: Added version two of the PDF and added an editing note to the post )
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(2024-05-14, 07:57 PM)Laird Wrote: Hi folks. Attached is a PDF containing a little table I drew up in trying to methodically consider the various possible combinations of each of mind and brain as either physical or mental along with the(?) four possible types of relationship between the two (mind and brain). It was inspired by a little discussion/debate I'm having elsewhere on the topic, "Consciousness is simply generated by the brain. When the brain dies, consciousness dies and is no more." No prizes for guessing my position on the topic.

Before (potentially) sharing it in that discussion/debate in the context of clarifying why/how I rule out various positions such as physicalism based in part simply on what words mean, I thought I'd share it here and get folks' feedback, if any.

Over to you.

Why is Brain <- Mind incoherent? You say:

Quote:Seems to be empirically false in that brains seem to follow the laws of physics to a meaningful extent; also seems unlikely given two mental entities whereas our minds seem unitary.

I am not sure how this counts against Mind -> Brain given I don't think you mean my mind made my brain prior to my birth/conception. 

It seems to me that anyone who found some merit in Aquinas' 5th Way, where God is the underlying Ground of Being to all causal relations, would accept that God's Mind preceded all brains?

Of course there's also the possibility I have completely misunderstood what you meant...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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(2024-05-15, 01:54 AM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Why is Brain <- Mind incoherent? You say:


I am not sure how this counts against Mind -> Brain given I don't think you mean my mind made my brain prior to my birth/conception. 

It seems to me that anyone who found some merit in Aquinas' 5th Way, where God is the underlying Ground of Being to all causal relations, would accept that God's Mind preceded all brains?

Of course there's also the possibility I have completely misunderstood what you meant...

Thanks for taking the time to look, consider, and reply, Sci. Much appreciated.

Firstly: yes, you're right, the relationships indicated by the arrows aren't intended to be ones of origination. They don't mean that the entity on the determining side of the arrow creates the entity on the determined side of the arrow; instead, they mean that in some meaningful sense the one wholly determines the other, with the paradigmatic example being epiphenomenalism, where the existence of both an individual (physical) brain and its corresponding individual (mental) mind are taken for granted, but the contents/"behaviour" of that individual (mental) mind are 100% determined by the individual (physical) brain with which it corresponds.

The case in question is unusual in that both mind and brain are taken to be mental yet distinct, so it's some unusual form of idealism in which an individual (mental) mind wholly determines the contents/"behaviour" of the (also mental) individual brain with which it corresponds. In any case, the reasoning goes that the empirical fact that the (in this case mental) brain for the most part follows the laws of physics still holds. This seems to be incompatible with the (also mental) mind fully determining it, in which case we would expect the brain to depart radically from the laws of physics at times, since the mind certainly doesn't seem to follow them, and goes off on a quite wild course at times.

In other words (the reasoning goes) if a (mental) mind was fully determining an (also mental) brain in the same way that on epiphenomenalism the (physical) brain fully determines the (mental) mind, we wouldn't expect that (mental) brain to so closely approximate the laws of physics.

I'm open to arguments that this is an over-confident assessment. Maybe there's a reason why we might anyway expect such a close approximation to the laws of physics in a mind-determined (also mental) brain, or maybe it could be argued that we simply haven't observed all brains closely enough to be able to say with confidence that they consistently at least come close to approximating behaviour according to the laws of physics .

What do you think?
(This post was last modified: 2024-05-15, 06:02 AM by Laird. Edited 2 times in total. Edit Reason: Added clarifications )
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I guess one argument that might be made is that if this reasoning is correct, then it should be applied strictly in the case of idealism proper too, which currently only gets tagged as "Unlikely" on a similar basis, whereas the case in point has been ruled out totally.
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My thinking on not ruling out idealism on this basis was with deference to Bernardo's contention that although mind and brain are one and the same and present the appearance of following the laws of physics, there are hidden (mental/conscious) depths that don't appear. Does this distinguish the two scenarios though? Is it even sound?
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(2024-05-15, 06:11 AM)Laird Wrote: My thinking on not ruling out idealism on this basis was with deference to Bernardo's contention that although mind and brain are one and the same and present the appearance of following the laws of physics, there are hidden (mental/conscious) depths that don't appear. Does this distinguish the two scenarios though? Is it even sound?

I think if the argument is that my brain is a secondary product created by my mind...Yeah under a strict dichotomy this would be almost certainly false. However I would agree that Kastrup's view that the brain is the image of thought from a certain angle makes it more plausible.

Regarding these supposed laws of physics, however, it's unclear how these laws aren't mental phenomena. They seem to stem from mathematical relationships which are in turn based on mathematical proofs.

Even just regarding them as rules leads us to questions of why they don't change as well - in some cases at least - how their consistency arises from the odd, indeterministic behaviors at the QM level. At the very least there's something strange and arguably mental-like about the physical?
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(2024-05-15, 06:02 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: I think if the argument is that my brain is a secondary product created by my mind...Yeah under a strict dichotomy this would be almost certainly false. However I would agree that Kastrup's view that the brain is the image of thought from a certain angle makes it more plausible.

Regarding these supposed laws of physics, however, it's unclear how these laws aren't mental phenomena. They seem to stem from mathematical relationships which are in turn based on mathematical proofs.

Even just regarding them as rules leads us to questions of why they don't change as well - in some cases at least - how their consistency arises from the odd, indeterministic behaviors at the QM level. At the very least there's something strange and arguably mental-like about the physical?

It would seem to me that at the level of human life (not QM) the physical and the mental are practically, in fact, of fundamentally and existentially different natures. This is our everyday moment to moment experience. This is the assumption behind the formulation of the Hard Problem (which correctly predicts the total failure of all attempts to find physicalist/materialist explanations for consciousness), and seems to be the understanding behind the truth table in the OP.

This assumption behind the Hard Problem would make Kastrup's view incorrect for the observed and lived-in physical world but possibly still correct in some ultimate metaphysical sense - all of existence in our reality including matter of all kinds being at base the thought of God, for instance.

It is not clear that the existence of QM and its implications concerning consciousness actually in some way being basal in our reality would make any change to what does seem to be the provisional most likely case in the table - interactive dualism.

It would seem to be more than coincidence that interactive dualism would also be the most likely correct interpretation of a lot of veridical evidence for various paranormal phenomena. 

The truth table of the OP seems to be incomplete in that it does not factor in in some way the existence of much paranormal veridical evidence, in formulating the likelihood of the various propositions. I think that to be complete, the truth table should include some sort of weighting factor to account for the probable existence of certain veridical empirical evidence. This would I think make interactive dualism even more likely as being the proposition closest to the truth. The assumed values of this weighting factor would naturally be extremely controversial, and would make some of the other options even more unlikely, and create an impass of logical contradiction for others.

Of course, such a change would make the table no longer a purely logical and mostly unassailable proposition, but it would at least entirely cover the territory. The winner would still be selectable using abductive reasoning from the best of a number of different proposed explanations.
(This post was last modified: 2024-05-15, 07:42 PM by nbtruthman. Edited 2 times in total.)
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(2024-05-15, 07:22 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: It would seem to me that at the level of human life (not QM) the physical and the mental are practically, in fact, of fundamentally and existentially different natures. This is our everyday moment to moment experience. This is the assumption behind the formulation of the Hard Problem (which correctly predicts the total failure of all attempts to find physicalist/materialist explanations for consciousness), and seems to be the understanding behind the truth table in the OP.

To even make this argument one has to explain what the physical is...and without conscious observation (mental) and mathematics (mental) I don't see how one even gets started?

I do agree we can make the distinction @Laird does, that the physical is the consensus experience we share...but that just means the "physical" is tied to our experience of it.

Also, more specifically, I was considering the reality of laws which seems to be the primary contrast between the "physical" and "mental". My point was that the physical is no so orderly, nor the mental so chaotic, that we can make a clean separation between them based on this criteria of "laws".
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(2024-05-15, 06:02 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: I think if the argument is that my brain is a secondary product created by my mind...

It's not even necessarily that, but the more I contemplate it, the less I'm sure I understand what it would be. I just iterated out the sixteen possible combinations of physical and mental brains and minds with the four types of relationship between the two and ruled out those I could without thinking too carefully about what they meant in practice.

To be clear, each row in the table takes the existence of both individual brains and minds for granted; it doesn't assume any particular metaphysical reason or context for their existence.

Those, including this one, in which both brain and mind are mental rather than physical but not identical are a bit strange and problematic: in particular, what does it mean for a brain to be mental - and thus presumably having experiences - but not identical to the mind, which is also mental and thus having experiences, and is supposed to be the seat of experience? Do the "brain experiences" somehow "transfer over" to or somehow "augment" the "mind experiences"? Having experiences entails being a self, but is it even meaningful to say that the brain self is or could be the same self as the mind self? (If not, then this row can be ruled out for that reason alone: the premise of all of this is that the brain and mind in question are part of the same person. Now that that's become clear to me, my immediate impression is that it should be ruled out for that reason). And how is it even possible - what could it even mean? - for a mental brain - an experiencing entity - to be wholly circumscribed by the laws of physics yet at the same time wholly determined by another mental entity - its associated mind? What metaphysical context would even support all of this? Some sort of idealism, sure, but it doesn't seem to be a good fit for an idealism of the nondual, all-is-one-mind variety, so...?...

I don't know how - if at all - important it is to consider this scenario and to try to answer these questions - I just wanted the table to be complete, so I included this row along with the rest.

(2024-05-15, 06:02 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Yeah under a strict dichotomy this would be almost certainly false.

By strict dichotomy I'm interpreting you to mean the strict dichotomy according to which the (mental) mind and the (also mental) brain are separate entities (albeit that the former fully determines the latter).

(2024-05-15, 06:02 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: However I would agree that Kastrup's view that the brain is the image of thought from a certain angle makes it more plausible.

Right, where there's really only one entity (a brain-mind) with both inner subjectivity and outer appearance. I do think that the fact that the outer appearance is described by the laws of physics is problematic for this view albeit not necessarily fatal: the possibility remains open that there's an effective interactive dualism, with the (hidden depths of the) freely willing mind "using" the laws of physics rather than being bound by them. Interactive dualism proper just seems more natural in this respect.

(2024-05-15, 06:02 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Regarding these supposed laws of physics, however, it's unclear how these laws aren't mental phenomena.

You might mean this in one of two ways: that these laws are ontologically mental phenomena, or that they are causal outcomes of (or in some sense "grounded in or by") mentality. I suspect that you mean the latter.

(2024-05-15, 06:02 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: They seem to stem from mathematical relationships which are in turn based on mathematical proofs.

I'm not sure about "stem[ming] from" or being "based on": a phrase that seems more apt to me (for both) is "being describable or discovered or demonstrated by".

(2024-05-15, 06:02 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Even just regarding them as rules leads us to questions of why they don't change as well - in some cases at least - how their consistency arises from the odd, indeterministic behaviors at the QM level. At the very least there's something strange and arguably mental-like about the physical?

I don't know enough physics to be able to affirm or refute the empirical part of that (consistency-from-indeterminism), but re the lack of change: yes, their being grounded in or instantiated by a Mind is one possibility that might explain this. I haven't thought as much about this as you have so it's hard to say more than that, or even to suggest what other possibilities there might be. What do you think?
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(2024-05-15, 07:33 PM)Laird Wrote: It's not even necessarily that, but the more I contemplate it, the less I'm sure I understand what it would be. I just iterated out the sixteen possible combinations of physical and mental brains and minds with the four types of relationship between the two and ruled out those I could without thinking too carefully about what they meant in practice.

To be clear, each row in the table takes the existence of both individual brains and minds for granted; it doesn't assume any particular metaphysical reason or context for their existence.

Those, including this one, in which both brain and mind are mental rather than physical but not identical are a bit strange and problematic: in particular, what does it mean for a brain to be mental - and thus presumably having experiences - but not identical to the mind, which is also mental and thus having experiences, and is supposed to be the seat of experience? Do the "brain experiences" somehow "transfer over" to or somehow "augment" the "mind experiences"? Having experiences entails being a self, but is it even meaningful to say that the brain self is or could be the same self as the mind self? (If not, then this row can be ruled out for that reason alone: the premise of all of this is that the brain and mind in question are part of the same person. Now that that's become clear to me, my immediate impression is that it should be ruled out for that reason). And how is it even possible - what could it even mean? - for a mental brain - an experiencing entity - to be wholly circumscribed by the laws of physics yet at the same time wholly determined by another mental entity - its associated mind? What metaphysical context would even support all of this? Some sort of idealism, sure, but it doesn't seem to be a good fit for an idealism of the nondual, all-is-one-mind variety, so...?...

I don't know how - if at all - important it is to consider this scenario and to try to answer these questions - I just wanted the table to be complete, so I included this row along with the rest.

(Linking to some old threads to keep the reply brief and avoid too much repetition of stuff I think you've probably seen before.)

I think gets into the question the neuroscientist Smythies asked - "How can the brain be in the head when the head is in the brain?"

Donald Hoffman goes into this at length, pointing out the brain itself is a phenomenal object that isn't by necessity the truth of the underlying reality. Just as a virtual volleyball in a multiplayer game is not indicative of the underlying circuitry, neither is the brain by necessity indicative of the underlying reality.

So it seems possible to me that everything can be mind, and even that my brain could be a mental object that correlates with but is not ultimately the same thing as my mind. However I would agree that the brain is a very curious object in Idealism, as the Idealist Mander himself notes, and it isn't clear Idealists have really done a good job explaining its existence in their metaphysics.

Quote:By strict dichotomy I'm interpreting you to mean the strict dichotomy according to which the (mental) mind and the (also mental) brain are separate entities (albeit that the former fully determines the latter).

Right, where there's really only one entity (a brain-mind) with both inner subjectivity and outer appearance. I do think that the fact that the outer appearance is described by the laws of physics is problematic for this view albeit not necessarily fatal: the possibility remains open that there's an effective interactive dualism, with the (hidden depths of the) freely willing mind "using" the laws of physics rather than being bound by them. Interactive dualism proper just seems more natural in this respect.

I do think I better get your objection to the idea that the brain is merely the image of the mind seen from outside. Even if we accept QM indeterminism there does seem to be an issue that the image could be described in physical terms while that which generates said image seems to be in opposition to any such mathematically reduced description.

I would note that much like a shadow the image cast in "physical" terms is not something that allows for a whole description of the actual entity that casts it. You could get some information about an object from the shadow it casts, but much about said object would remain mysterious. Similarly, as per Goff's argument about Mary and the Quus problem, we cannot actually determine the mental contents solely by looking at the brain.

I accept this isn't a completely satisfying answer, as per my above comment I do think the brain presents a problem for Idealists. OTOH, admittedly, I am not an Idealist so I may not have dived deep enough into their work on where the brain fits in a reality where everything is mental.

Quote:You might mean this in one of two ways: that these laws are ontologically mental phenomena, or that they are causal outcomes of (or in some sense "grounded in or by") mentality. I suspect that you mean the latter.

They might be both. Under a strict Idealist reading I don't think there's a distinction, or at least laws are by nature the more orderly mental thoughts...though again there's the pesky issue of QM level indeterminism...

Of course there's also a plainer theist reading, that God willed the ordered reality into being and possibly upholds said order as a concurrent cause...

Quote:I'm not sure about "stem[ming] from" or being "based on": a phrase that seems more apt to me (for both) is "being describable or discovered or demonstrated by".

I think part of the challenge is descriptions aren't causal discoveries, in the sense that if we accept the "physical" as a brute fact reality we don't get into the question of essence. What exactly is the "physical" being [beyond] its relations, and what is the inner "oomph" of its causal properties that seem to obey "laws"?

Quote:I don't know enough physics to be able to affirm or refute the empirical part of that (consistency-from-indeterminism), but re the lack of change: yes, their being grounded in or instantiated by a Mind is one possibility that might explain this. I haven't thought as much about this as you have so it's hard to say more than that, or even to suggest what other possibilities there might be.

Well the current evidence is, AFAIK, showing us that QM is indeterministic. Whether this is due to our lack of knowledge of a deeper determinism is unknown. However I think Aaronson's critique of the determinist's hope gives good reason to accept QM is ontologically indeterministic...well, barring some new future evidence...

Quote:What do you think?

I think there are varied possibilities that could be true...it's actually hard to rule out any of the options besides Physicalism which IMO is just nonsensical. I think Idealism does need to face up to the problem of the brain, but I'm not convinced this is an insurmountable problem.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2024-05-15, 09:03 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel. Edited 1 time in total.)
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